Wednesday, 14 October 2009

It's Blog Wars

My would-be Nemesis 'Dapper Dan' has obviously been encouraged by the unprecendented viewing figures his blog would have gained since I linked to it yesterday. He's warmed to his theme and has posted again explaining how I am a threat to the Cycling City project and with it Bristol chances of ever being a "true cycling city".

Dapper Dan seems to have a rather muddled and simplistic world view. If only, he says, we'd all rally around Cycling City and give it a chance, then perhaps in 30 years time something worthwhile might be achieved. Yes, he's actually saying that "Success .. won't be evident during the lifetime of Cycling City" which is pretty much the point I've been labouring over here. So he condemns my blog as negative and pessimistic yet agrees with the main thrust of my argument, contrary to all the Cycling City hype.

Dapper Dan argues that the views expressed here are not "representative". He says -
"I simply am not willing to believe that the majority share the one sided argument that (Mr Hutt) represents. Yes the Council gets it wrong. Yes the time frame for the delivery of the project is far too short. Yes the stated targets will probably be missed"
- so contradicting himself by showing that he agrees with my 'unrepresentative' observations.

Actually I think the general thrust of my views are probably quite 'representative' of a substantial proportion of cyclists, otherwise why would this blog have any credibility? Why would politicians and the media bother to follow it and comment on it if they thought it was only an oddball, isolated viewpoint? As it happens my Google Alerts trawl this morning picked up yet another blog commenting on Cycling City here. While I don't agree with all the detail I think the main thrust of it is pretty much along the lines I've pursued here. It's by no means unusual to come across similar views quite independently expressed.

You can read more over on Dapper Dan's blog, but I'd like to reproduce my comment here. It's a kind of cri-de-coeur, which I think is good to let forth now and again.
Dan, I didn't set the time scale or the budget or the targets for Cycling City. They were set by Cycling England and Bristol City Council (and South Glos). They were the ones who said they would double cycling in Bristol in less than three years and that provision for cycling would be transformed. They were the ones who made false claims about the funding levels and the extent of new infrastructure.

All I've done is point out that the Emperor has no clothes. I wasn't the one who took him for a fool and told him his clothes were magic and would be seen by everyone else but himself.

As you yourself appear to be agreeing Cycling City was ill conceived. I tried to point that out from the outset but most people were blinded by the £ signs and started fantasising about some golden age for cycling. Now the dismal reality of a long hard slog over decades is sinking in.

You say give it a chance to succeed. Well I did, starting about 30 years ago as it happens. I dedicated a large chunk of the prime of my life to trying to make things happen on the cycling front, with some limited success. But for the most part my efforts were rebuffed and I was left broken and financially ruined by the experience. That is what happens in the real world to anyone who attempts to promote radical change against powerful vested interests.

So you see why I am cynical today. I've seen how opportunists exploit the Cycling City concept for their own career ends, milking it while it lasts and then moving on to the next cause to be showered with taxpayers' money. These people do us no favours. Their focus is on their careers and pensions, not on putting their jobs on the line to force through difficult changes.

The thing I most regret about my earlier work was helping to establish the Cycling Project Team on Avon County Council. We had high hopes for them because we assumed they would be motivated like we were, putting cycling before all else. But they turned out to be career bureaucrats who always compromised the interests of cyclists to save their jobs. That's why we have so many tokenistic and ill-functioning cycle 'farcilities' around Bristol.

Why should we expect any better from Cycling City? We've seen enough to know that the same bureaucratic mentality prevails. We've seen enough to know that the interests of cyclists will again be compromised to perpetuate the bureaucracy. Just watch how the 20 mph idea, which actually has great potential, is being watered down by bureaucrats anxious not to create controversy. These are the ways of the world and the sooner people wake up to it the better.


Anonymous said...

"So you see why I am cynical today"

Says a man who appeared on the front page of the Evening Post purporting to represent the city's cyclists, advocating a bicycle lift for Park Street.

If you're cynical, I don't know what that makes me.

Chris Hutt said...

I did not and do not "purport to represent the city's cyclists" and never would. I, like many others, do try to represent what I understand to be the interests of cyclists but that is different to claiming to represent the views of cyclists.

Elizabeth said...

Chris makes an important point about career bureaucrats, one which may be applied to every department in local government. The same may be said of paid, career charity workers, and paid, career politicians. We need truly independent voices if we are ever to get good administration.

inks said...

I was excited at the idea of Bristol being a "cycling city" although a bit puzzled as the announcement was made while the Council was trying to turn the finest cycling facility in the world into a bus lane.

So far we have the Princes Street Bridge 'upgrade' and some pay cycles.

The bridge upgrade was for pedestrians and has made things worse for cyclists. The pay cycles are already looking abandoned and neglected. Have they been used at all?

I don't see much else happening and don't have high expectations right now.